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Old 10-28-2008, 09:32 AM   #256
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Let me try a couple of arguments to convince you I'm right on this.

First, in almost all societies in all times there has been the concept of morality. Regardless of our differing opinions on relative or absolute morality, I think you'll agree that the purpose of morality is to describe how we ought to behave. Morality makes no sense at all unless there is a difference between how we know we ought to behave and how we actually do behave.

Second, by observation of the world in general I see that people lie, and steal and fight. I see that divorce is caused by people's inability to keep a vow and find a compromise. I see wars fought caused by people's inability to make and keep agreements, and by greed for resources. I don't see any society or people that say that these things are good or how the world ought to be.

And to be clear I apply this argument equally to myself. You say that there is some weakness in people who can't live lives in accordance with their conscience. I agree but I note that I am weak. And weak in a way that I can't change even by my own efforts. Maybe you are different and either you didn't do any of that lying, stealing or cheating that I referred to above, or maybe you don't acknowledge that those are things that you ought not do ?
Um, thomastwo, there is not one argument in this post of yours, as in "if this, then that."

Human societies need rules in order to enforce those behaviors that either the rulers or the collective deem to be proper human conduct. As we have discussed elsewhere in this forum, apart from the basics (don't kill, don't steal, don't lie, for instance), the rules or morality, if you will, are not uniform across disparate cultures.

Greed is as much a part of human nature as is generosity. Timidity exists alongside ruthlessness. Loyalty and betrayal have always co-existed, regardless of the rules.

Also, while loyalty is often viewed as a virtue, there are instances where betrayal can operate as such. For example, I imagine most here would agree that those who betrayed the leaders of the Nazi regime wound up doing a good thing in the end.

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
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Old 10-28-2008, 10:17 AM   #257
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You seem to be anxious to discuss free-will. I don't really understand your point ? What do you mean by free-will ?
As one who doesn't believe in the existence of free will, I am loathe to define it. However, I'm pretty sure every definition that I've ever seen or heard of said hooey seems to involve the ability to choose one's behaviors and actions. Yet it seems now that you are saying that this choice does not exist.

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Old 10-28-2008, 10:39 AM   #258
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In theological terms free-will is usually taken to mean the ability to choose your action independently of God. I don't think it has any impact on this discussion.

What I'm saying here is that we can choose our own actions, but that we often choose actions that are different from what we think we ought to do. A trivial example would be, sitting at home and eating one more piece of chocolate cake instead of going to the gym. It's a failure of will, but not of free-will as I described it above as God is not involved one way or another in the choice.
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Old 10-28-2008, 10:47 AM   #259
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How is God not involved? Did he not speak of gluttony? Does he not know whether you will eat the cake or not? Does he not have a plan for you? If God is not involved in the choice then he surely doesn't know of the decision and thus cannot be omnipotent.

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Old 10-28-2008, 10:49 AM   #260
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(Nice job going from "lying stealing and cheating" to "eating too much cake ZOMG!", though!)

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Old 10-28-2008, 10:49 AM   #261
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thomastwo wrote View Post
First, in almost all societies in all times there has been the concept of morality. Regardless of our differing opinions on relative or absolute morality, I think you'll agree that the purpose of morality is to describe how we ought to behave. Morality makes no sense at all unless there is a difference between how we know we ought to behave and how we actually do behave.
Before I agree to the purpose of morality, we would need to agree on what morality means. I've been in search of a complete but pithy definition for some time, and so far I have not done better than Jonathan Haidt's (U. of Virginia psychologist): "interlocking sets of values, practices, institutions, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible." (This is in fact his definition of moral systems.) I would add that "evolved psychological mechanisms" include much emotional content, and as such there is no guarantee that a moral precept, or an expression of a society's morality, will be rational.

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Second, by observation of the world in general I see that people lie, and steal and fight.
Most people, by my observations, do not do these things. Therefore, most people are not in need of saving?

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I see that divorce is caused by people's inability to keep a vow and find a compromise.
I don't see this as a moral issue. Nor do I think it's always wrong to break a promise. (In many cases it would be far worse to keep a bad promise.) Similarly, I wouldn't compromise my position under all circumstances.

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I see wars fought caused by people's inability to make and keep agreements, and by greed for resources. I don't see any society or people that say that these things are good or how the world ought to be.
There have been many societies who feel that their particular excellence gives them the right to extract resources wherever they find them, and at the point of a gun. I live in such a society. Further, war is often glorified, and soldiers are routinely elevated to heroic pedestals. In some societies, the warrior ethic is the highest ideal.

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And to be clear I apply this argument equally to myself. You say that there is some weakness in people who can't live lives in accordance with their conscience. I agree but I note that I am weak.
I did not say so. (I said I found it sad.)

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And weak in a way that I can't change even by my own efforts. Maybe you are different and either you didn't do any of that lying, stealing or cheating that I referred to above, or maybe you don't acknowledge that those are things that you ought not do ?
I'm very sorry that you can't change your ways through your own efforts. I suppose I must concede this is indeed a "weakness," especially if, as you say, you really want to change. If it's true that your own efforts are ineffectual in this regard, and if you are not alone in this failure to behave morally on your own accord, then I hope you and, presumably other Christians, continue to rely on a deity to keep you line.
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Old 10-28-2008, 10:51 AM   #262
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How is God not involved? Did he not speak of gluttony? Does he not know whether you will eat the cake or not? Does he not have a plan for you? If God is not involved in the choice then he surely doesn't know of the decision and thus cannot be omnipotent.
Chaos, if you want a discussion on free-will let's not do it in this thread. My basic point here doesn't in any way depend on the existence of God.
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Old 10-28-2008, 10:55 AM   #263
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You brought free will into it, not me, which is (one area) where you fail, since free will does not exist.

It is central to your argument that people are unable to perform (or refrain from performing) actions that they wish they want to (or don't want to) perform. This is, quite simply, contrary to the idea of free will. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You lose this argument if you hold to your belief in free will.

Or you could free yourself from those mind-shackles and start your journey on the path to enlightenment.

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Old 10-28-2008, 10:56 AM   #264
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thomas wrote
In theological terms free-will is usually taken to mean the ability to choose your action independently of God. I don't think it has any impact on this discussion.
I thought you were saying that God was needed to perform an action that you could not do for yourself:

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And to be clear I apply this argument equally to myself. You say that there is some weakness in people who can't live lives in accordance with their conscience. I agree but I note that I am weak. And weak in a way that I can't change even by my own efforts.
No?
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Old 10-28-2008, 11:00 AM   #265
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Phil, Chaos : At this point we don't have even a basic agreement on "the problem". I contend that it is a basic human condition that we don't do what we think we ought to do. This position has no dependency at all on the existence of any God or any particular theology.

For sure I have a solution in mind where a discussion of theological free-will might impinge. But I'm not at all confident we're going to get that far.
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Old 10-28-2008, 11:04 AM   #266
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You brought free will into it, not me, which is (one area) where you fail, since free will does not exist.

It is central to your argument that people are unable to perform (or refrain from performing) actions that they wish they want to (or don't want to) perform. This is, quite simply, contrary to the idea of free will. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You lose this argument if you hold to your belief in free will.

Or you could free yourself from those mind-shackles and start your journey on the path to enlightenment.
I have no idea what you mean by free-will other than the theological free-will that I described earlier. Do you have some other meaning ? If not, what is it you see in my argument which relies on God constraining human action ? I don't see it ?

And let me ask you a simple question. Do people do things that they think they ought not do ?
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Old 10-28-2008, 11:09 AM   #267
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Phil, Chaos : At this point we don't have even a basic agreement on "the problem". I contend that it is a basic human condition that we don't do what we think we ought to do...
I'm having a problem with this statement, because it presumes there is some universal agreement on what it is we ought to be doing. I see no evidence that this is the case. Could you flesh out this assertion a bit more? What is it that all of humanity is in agreement on with regards to what we all should be doing?

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
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Old 10-28-2008, 11:14 AM   #268
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My assertion doesn't even depend on everybody agreeing on what ought to be done. Only on the claim that we individually don't always do what we individually think we ought to do.
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Old 10-28-2008, 11:17 AM   #269
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We also don't think we're as pretty or as handsome as we should be, as rich as we ought to be, as loved and as acknowledged as we deserve. What has this got to do with anything?

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
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Old 10-28-2008, 11:17 AM   #270
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Philboid : Can I basically summarise your position as that from your personal experience and based on observation that people do what they think they ought to do. That is, that they act in accordance with their morality (whatever that might be).
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